Will Tablets Still Be Around in 5 Years?

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has gained a fair amount of press over his comment in regard to tablets last week at the Milken Institute Conference in Los Angeles: “In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.” Many critics and commentators appear to be regarding his statement as a stance of BlackBerry’s positioning in the tablet market; however, whether it is the company’s stance or not, such a bold statement is bound to get a lot of PR coverage nevertheless, which it did. But did he speak too soon?

According to the Media Behavior Institute’s USA TouchPoints, 17 percent of adults 18 to 64 accessed the Internet via tablets from July 2012 through January 2013. This is a 31 percent increase from the previous six months, while smartphones increased only 24 percent, and computers actually decreased by 6 percent. This speaks to the accelerated adoption and traction of the device, given the tablet industry only exploded since Apple’s iPad launch a mere three years ago. However, tablets aren’t just expanding in number. You often hear about smartphone and tablet usage being heavily driven by email and social networking; however, wider adoption and ever-developing consumer experience maturity levels with these devices has led to them being used for a variety of consumer and business needs.

With tablet adoption on the rise, there is no doubt that tablets are not only helping create a new digital experience, but a new consumer experience as well. Long gone are the days where point-and-click technology is the only way consumers interact with brands online. For example, mobile commerce is estimated to reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, up 56.5 percent over 2012, according to eMarketer. Additionally, in a survey by Decision Fuel and On Device Research in November 2012, 67 percent of mobile Internet users in the U.S. who were surveyed claimed that they only or mostly used mobile, rather than desktop, for accessing and browsing the Internet. With this increase in multi-device usage and decrease in reliance on desktops, it is important to recognize the way a user will interact with your brand across all devices.

While a cross-device approach can create the optimal experience a consumer can have with your brand at every interaction, it is important to keep a few things top-of-mind:

  • Brand. Leveraging responsive design, or an optimized presence by device, will allow consumers the benefit to engage and interact more seamlessly from a user standpoint; however, maintaining brand consistency and staying true to the brand is still important. Don’t retrofit your brand to a technological feature if it doesn’t make sense and portray who you are as a brand.
  • UX. Consumers interact across various devices with a brand; do not make them work to figure out where to find something on one platform vs. another. Not that it has to be an identical experience, but being intuitive and having a holistic UX philosophy to apply across all devices for the brand is key. Confusion does not create happy customers.
  • Content. While content is for sure still king, how consumers consume it across devices can vary. Take the time to understand the role each device has through research. For example, user interaction mapping can provide insight into how content and context come into play across various devices.
  • Personalization. While mobile devices are the most personal device, expectations quickly arise to a level of what “should be” as opposed to “could be” in regard to knowing who I am, what I have done, preferences, etc. Leveraging data you already have available and establishing customer segments and triggers is an easy way to recognize consumers and their behaviors on a more one-to-one, personal level. Brands are raising the bar on catered and custom content, and while some users may not like it, most still expect to see it.
  • Measurement. Expectations for performance need to be set based on the device and content offered. Success metrics should align with the value consumers gain by interacting with your brand on each device, and how it contributes to the overall goals and objectives of the business. Trying to do everything with every device is not a strategy; it’s a mess.

Well, as you can tell, I do think tablets will be here in five years. They may not serve the same purpose and meet the same user needs as they do now, as in fact, they have the potential to serve current and future needs as technology continues to advance. Remember the first-generation iPod, or mobile phones from the ’90s? Understanding the process of how consumers interact across devices and what value you can bring them is essential to creating a seamless experience for your customers, and will ensure that you are one step ahead to be ready for the next big thing – because it is inevitable that there will be one. Question is, are you ready?

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